As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
Reflection on the gospel reading: One pattern of human life which the gospels offer us is Bartimaeus, a blind man who sits by the road in Jericho. All of us, in some way or the other, sit by the roadside in some measure of need. Perhaps we have financial problems. Perhaps we suffer with some illness or physical condition. Each of us in some degree or another is afflicted with some corruption of the heart, a turning away in the soul from the true purpose of our lives. Our aspirations, our affections, and our desires too often bend toward the wrong things: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, gluttony, or any of a myriad of related sicknesses of soul.
Bartimaeus, however, has something going for him that many of us do not. He is waiting, waiting for something. He anticipates a helping hand, and he perseveres day-by-day anticipating that someone will extend it. Bartimaeus assumes the attitude of prayer, which is an attitude of patient waiting.
The gospel reminds us that Jesus is passing by, and when Bartimaeus senses the Lord’s presence, a prayer immediately comes to his lip, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” It is a self-activating prayer, the prayer of the heart. When Jesus hears him, the crowd, like the Church, comes to Bartimaeus and tells him to take courage, because Jesus is calling him. Jesus asks Bartimaeus what he wants, and Bartimaeus tells him he wants to see.
And what is it that Bartimaeus’s eyes see when Jesus opens them? What is it that we perceive as we sit with Bartimaeus patiently waiting?
It is Jesus.
Saint of the day: Today is the feast of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. This is a fairly late feast, going back only to the 13th or 14th century. It was established widely throughout the Church to pray for unity. The present date of celebration was set in 1969 in order to follow the Annunciation of the Lord (March 25) and precede the Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24).
Like most feasts of Mary, it is closely connected with Jesus and his saving work. The more visible actors in the visitation drama (see Luke 1:39-45) are Mary and Elizabeth. However, Jesus and John the Baptist steal the scene in a hidden way. Jesus makes John leap with joy—the joy of messianic salvation. Elizabeth, in turn, is filled with the Holy Spirit and addresses words of praise to Mary—words that echo down through the ages.
It is helpful to recall that we do not have a journalist’s account of this meeting. Rather, Luke, speaking for the Church, gives a prayerful poet’s rendition of the scene. Elizabeth’s praise of Mary as “the mother of my Lord” can be viewed as the earliest Church’s devotion to Mary. As with all authentic devotion to Mary, Elizabeth’s (the Church’s) words first praise God for what God has done to Mary. Only secondly does she praise Mary for trusting God’s words.
Then comes the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). Here Mary herself (like the Church) traces all her greatness to God.
Spiritual reading: Do whatever he tells you. (Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the Gospel of John.)
The disciples were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him.
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.”
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, “We can.” Jesus said to them, “The chalice that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In Mark’s gospel, Jesus three times foretells his suffering and death. Today’s gospel passage relates the third time that Jesus makes this prediction. Over the last couple of days, we have seen the rich young man receive and reject a call to follow the Lord and Jesus’ subsequent teaching about the call to discipleship. Today’s gospel explains what the real price of following Jesus is and describes the nature of Christian discipleship.
The gospel reading suggests that Jesus and his disciples were on the way to Jerusalem. The text indicates that the disciples were very concerned about what Jesus was doing; after all, they knew that the authorities were after Jesus and they suspected this journey could have no good end. Surely, they must have wondered if Jesus appreciated the situation, but the Lord demonstrates to them that he knows exactly what he is doing and tells them precisely what will happen to him when they arrive in Jerusalem.
The sons of thunder, James and John, then come to the Lord and ask that they may sit one at Jesus’ right and one at his left when Jesus inherits his kingdom. This scene makes unambiguous that James and John still do not understand what Jesus is doing and saying; the brothers labor under the spell of a vision of an earthly kingdom. Jesus responds to their request with an explanation that the cost of discipleship is a willingness to pay even the ultimate price to reveal God and God’s way of life.
When the other disciples hear when James and John have asked to have, they naturally become incensed at their behavior. But Jesus explains to them that what they have imagined is greatness is all wrong. In the world that Jesus came to create, greatness is making oneself small, taking the lowest place at the table, washing the feet of others. True discipleship is service to others.
Saint of the day: Joan of Arc is the patroness of soldiers and of France. On January 6, 1412, Joan of Arc was born to pious parents of the French peasant class, at the obscure village of Domremy, near the province of Lorraine. At a very early age, she heard voices: those of St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret.
At first the messages were personal and general. Then at last came the crowning order. In May, 1428, her voices “of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret” told Joan to go to the King of France and help him reconquer his kingdom. For at that time the English king was after the throne of France, and the Duke of Burgundy, the chief rival of the French king, was siding with him and gobbling up evermore French territory.
After overcoming opposition from churchmen and courtiers, the seventeen year old girl was given a small army with which she raised the siege of Orleans on May 8, 1429. She then enjoyed a series of spectacular military successes, during which the King was able to enter Rheims and be crowned with her at his side.
In May 1430, as she was attempting to relieve Compiegne, she was captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English when Charles and the French did nothing to save her. After months of imprisonment, she was tried at Rouen by a tribunal presided over by the infamous Peter Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, who hoped that the English would help him to become archbishop.
Through her unfamiliarity with the technicalities of theology, Joan was trapped into making a few damaging statements. When she refused to retract the assertion that it was the saints of God who had commanded her to do what she had done, she was condemned to death as a heretic, sorceress, and adulteress, and burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. She was nineteen years old. Some thirty years later, she was exonerated of all guilt.
Spiritual reading: If we pray, we will believe; If we believe, we will love. If we love, we will serve. (Mother Teresa)
Peter began to say to Jesus, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Among the founders of the religions of the world, Jesus uniquely asked that his disciples love and follow him. Jesus is at once the founder and focus of Christianity. From the very beginning of the faith, Jesus has been the central goal of his followers, and it was Jesus’ intention that he be this. This is apparent in today’s gospel. In this passage, Peter observes that he and his companions have made a radical commitment to follow Jesus, that they have left everything to be with Jesus. And Peter’s comment elicits from Jesus an important response, that Jesus should be at the center of the lives of his disciples. So it is at the instruction of the Master, with love for him and confidence in his teaching, that we as Church proclaim that to the glory of God the Father, Jesus Christ is Lord.
Saint of the day: Madeleine Sophie Barat was born in 1779. Her legacy can be found in the more than 100 schools operated by her Society of the Sacred Heart, institutions known for the quality of the education made available to the young.
Sophie herself received an extensive education, thanks to her brother, Louis, 11 years older and her godfather at baptism. Himself a seminarian, he decided that his younger sister would likewise learn Latin, Greek, history, physics, and mathematics—always without interruption and with a minimum of companionship. By age 15, she had received a thorough exposure to the Bible, the teachings of the Fathers of the Church and theology. Despite the oppressive regime Louis imposed, young Sophie thrived and developed a genuine love of learning.
Sophie lived during the French Revolution, which saw the suppression of Christian schools. The education of the young, particularly young girls, was in a troubled state. During this period, Sophie, who had concluded that she was called to the religious life, was persuaded to begin her life as a nun and as a teacher. She founded the Society of the Sacred Heart, which would focus on schools for the poor as well as boarding schools for young women of means; today, co-ed Sacred Heart schools can be found as well as schools exclusively for boys.
In 1826, her Society of the Sacred Heart received formal approval. By then she had served as superior at a number of convents. In 1865, she was stricken with paralysis; she died that year on the feast of the Ascension.
Spiritual reading: I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. (C.S. Lewis)
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus in today’s gospel calls the rich young man to an interior freedom. Jesus calls upon the rich young man to possess the freedom to make a radical choice for God no matter the personal cost. Jesus sees the rich young man is an incredibly good person but one who is possessed with superfluous attachments and preformed opinions. His wealth is more important to him than his radical gift of self to God.
You and I may feel, at least by the measures of our societies, that we are not materially rich, and perhaps we may think the story of the rich young man does not apply to us. Money, however is not the only kind of riches that threaten our freedom to respond to God. Many people are in relationships of which they are afraid to let go. At work, I might have a title or a position to which I am so attached that its power over me terrifies me of what would happen if I lost the title or position. I have known people who owned things they valued so highly that these things made them profoundly unhappy. Perhaps it is my good health that I value over everything else. These are all superfluous attachments that threaten my interior freedom to put myself at the unconditional disposal of God and God’s work.
God may or may not ask me to be rid of the money, the relationship, the thing, or my good health. The point of interior freedom in the spiritual life is not to do the harder thing. The point of interior freedom is to be ready to do whichever thing God desires from us in building up the Kingdom. It is the readiness that counts, and the rich young man in today’s gospel passage apparently did not have the kind of interior freedom which the work of the Kingdom demands of all disciples.
Saint of the day: Antoni Julian Nowowiejski was born on February 11, 1858 in Poland. He studied in Płock and Saint Petersburg and received the Holy Orders in 1881. He became a professor and a rector of the Płock Seminary, canon of Płock and vicar general of the Płock diocese. He became a bishop in 1909. As the leader of the Płock diocese he carried out an administrative reform, devoting much attention to Catholic education (among other things, he created a lower seminary). During the First World War, he was active in charitable organizations. He oversaw two diocesan synods, one in 1927 and the other in 1938, and initiated a local chapter of Catholic Action. In November 1930, he became the titular archbishop of Silyum.
Nowowiejski was the author of many works of history, especially the history of Płock, and Catholic liturgy. His Parish Ceremony became a standard textbook for parish priests and went through seven editions before the World War II. The University of Warsaw awarded him a honorary title of doctor honoris causa.
On September 1, 1939, the German invasion of Poland marked the beginning of the war. One of the Nazis’ goals was to eliminate the educated classes of Poles. In 1940, the Germans arrested Bishop Nowowiejski and Płock’s suffragan bishop Leon Wetmański who were imprisoned. Nowowiejski died on May 28, 1941 in Soldau concentration camp. Nowowiejski was beatified in 1999 as one of the 108 Martyrs of World War II.
O comforting fire of Spirit,
Life, within the very Life of all Creation.
Holy you are in giving life to All.
Holy you are in anointing
those who are not whole;
Holy you are in cleansing
a festering wound.
O sacred breath,
O fire of love,
O sweetest taste in my breast
which fills my heart
with a fine aroma of virtues.
O most pure fountain
through whom it is known
that God has united strangers
and inquired after the lost.
O breastplate of life
and hope of uniting
all members as One,
O sword-belt of honor,
enfold those who offer blessing.
Care for those
who are imprisoned by the enemy
and dissolve the bonds of those
whom Divinity wishes to save.
O mightiest path which penetrates All,
from the height to every Earthly abyss,
you compose All, you unite All.
Through you clouds stream, ether flies,
stones gain moisture,
waters become streams,
and the earth exudes Life.
You always draw out knowledge,
bringing joy through Wisdom’s inspiration.
Therefore, praise be to you
who are the sound of praise
and the greatest prize of Life,
who are hope and richest honour
bequeathing the reward of Light.
Saint Hildegard of Bingen
Gospel reading of the day:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit as our Advocate whom Jesus promised. Jesus has left us with an Advocate who is good, loving, powerful, and loyal on the one hand, but wild, dangerous, unpredictable, fierce, demanding, and unyielding on the other. Because the Spirit loves us (indeed, is the very love of God for us), the Spirit comes to shatter our idols and asks from us the gift of nothing less than our total selves.
Each year, Pentecost invites us to wonder at the Spirit’s outpouring on the Blessed Mother and the apostles. The feast remind us that the Spirit comes to give us peace and strength, light and joy, wisdom and discernment. The Holy Spirit, in other words, comes to make us like Jesus.
But there is more to Jesus than his peace, strength, light, joy, wisdom, and discernment. There is also his suffering. The Spirit comes to annihilate all the evil spirits that afflict us, and the cost to us may not be a small one. If the Spirit molds us into Jesus, the Spirit must lead us in one way or the other to the cross.
The cross may be personally destructive. It may humiliate us and prove scandalous to those who see what happens to us. The Spirit vanquishes evil, but the only truly efficacious banishment of evil we have as an exemplar is the example of our crucified Lord. To follow Jesus may require us to go to the very depths of hell to battle the demons that afflict us and our worlds.
Pentecost reminds us that the Spirit comes to speak to us truths we may not want to know and invite us to walk along paths we may not wish to walk. In our most conscious and attentive moments, perhaps we ought to be afraid to ask for the Holy Spirit because the redemption we receive may not be the redemption we want. The Spirit may ask of us to live the scandal of the cross in a way neither we nor those around us may understand. Yet, as Christians, we ultimately share the hope of the resurrection, and whatever abyss the Spirit may invite us to traverse, we also know that God in the end shall right all things and that all shall be well.
Spiritual reading: Prayer, fasting, vigil and all other Christian activities, however good they may be in themselves, do not constitute the aim of our Christian life, although they serve as the indispensable means of reaching this end. The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ’s sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. (Saint Seraphim of Sarov)
Gospel reading of the day:
Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved, the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper and had said, “Master, who is the one who will betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die. But Jesus had not told him that he would not die, just “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours?”
It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount that the single hearted are blessed because they will see God. This particular beatitude attaches a characteristic, single heartedness, with an outcome, seeing God. It suggests that if we pursue God, we will find God. It is often hard to keep our eyes on the ball and stay focused on the task before us. In today’s passage, Peter apparently exhibited a certain preoccupation with what was going to happen to someone else. While the Lord is talking to Peter about Peter, Peter seems to want to change the subject. He effectively says, “Hey, Lord, what about that guy over there?” And our Lord replies, “Peter, never mind that guy over there. What happens to him is not your concern. Pay attention to what I am telling you: you, Peter, are to follow me.”
Jesus is also speaking to us. We naturally are concerned with what happens to the people around us, but we ultimately exercise responsibility for our own behavior. We need to keep our eye on the ball: Jesus has charged us, just as he charged Peter, to follow him. If we do this, we will discharge our duties to one another, and our single heartedness will lead us to God.
Saint of the day: Philip Neri was born July 22, 1515 at Florence, Italy. Though he was related to Italian nobility, Philip came from a poor family. His father, Francisco Neri, worked as a notary. Philip’s brother died in childhood, but his two sisters, Caterina and Elisabetta survived. He was a pray young person who was taught the humanities by the Dominicans. He moved to San Germano in 1533 to help some family members with their business, and while he was there, he would escape to a local Dominican chapel in the mountains. He received inspiration while in a deeply prayerful state that he had an apostolate in Rome. To follow his inspiration, he cut himself off from his family, and went there.
Philip was befriended by Galeotto Caccia who took Philip in and paid him to tutor his two sons. Philip wrote poetry in Latin and Italian and studied philosophy and theology. When he tired of learning, he sold all his books and gave the money to the poor. He began to visit and care for the sick, and impoverished pilgrims. He founded a society of like-minded folk to do the same. He became a friend of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. A layman, he lived in the city as a hermit. During Easter season of 1544, while praying in the catacomb of San Sebastiano, he received a vision of a globe of fire that entered his chest, and he experienced an ecstasy that physically enlarged his heart.
With Persiano Rose, he founded the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity. He began to preach, and many people came to the Lord as the result of his preaching. In 1550, he considered retiring to the life of a solitary hermit, but received further visions that told him his mission was in Rome. Later he considered missionary work in India but further visions convinced him to stay in Rome. He entered the priesthood in 1551, heard confessions by the hour, and could tell penitents their sins before they confessed. He began working with youth, finding safe places for them to play, becoming involved in their lives.
Philip’s popularity was such that he was accused of forming his own sect but was cleared of this baseless charge. He founded the Congregation of the Oratory, a group of priests dedicated to preaching and teaching but which suffered from accusations of heresy because of the involvement of laymen as preachers. In later years he was beset by several illnesses, each of which was in turn cured through prayer. He died May 27, 1595.
Spiritual reading: Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is. (Amy Carmichael)
Gospel reading of the day:
After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them, he said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In this passage Jesus contrasts the difference between life before and after a commitment to him. At the core of the passage is the question Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” It is the question which Jesus asks me today. It is the question which Jesus poses to you today. “Do you love me?” Jesus asks the question knowing that it is the decisive question, the question that goes to the essence of why we are alive. The real answer to the question decides every other issue in our lives: what we do when we get up in the morning, what we read, how we treat one another, our relationship to the needy, what we do before we go to bed at night. In the passage, Jesus contrasts the two kinds of people in the world. There are people who dress themselves and go where they want and there are people whose lives lead them to let someone else dress them and lead them where they do not want to go. In other words, people who do not love Jesus live lives on their own terms, and people who love Jesus follow the radical promptings of the Spirit. I suppose a good many of us are somewhere between those two extremes, and so Jesus continues to ask today, “Do you love me?”
Saint of the day: Today, we celebrate the feast days of 25 Mexican Martyrs who died during the Mexican Cristero War, and were canonized in 2000. The Cristero War (also known as the Cristiada) occurred throughout Mexico between the years of 1926 and 1929, and consisted of an uprising against the Mexican government of the time, set off by religious persecution of Catholics and Catholic religious (the Cristiada is the subject of a major film to be released on June 1). While the rebellion started out peacefully, following increasing fines, restrictions, and persecution and martyrdom of priests, things became more deadly. The rebels began calling themselves Cristeros because they felt they were fighting for Christ himself.
Initially, written into governmental law, specific prohibitions were declared in regards to organized religion. For example, wearing clerical garb in public (i.e., outside Church buildings) earned a fine of 500 pesos (approximately 250 U.S. dollars at the time); a priest who criticized the government could be imprisoned for five years. Some states enacted oppressive measures permitting only a single priest to serve the entire Catholic congregation of the state. Church property was seized, foreign priests were expelled, and all monasteries, convents, and religious schools were closed.
After formal rebellion began, fighting ensued for approximately two years, until diplomatic relations and pressure from outside countries led to an uneasy truce between the Cristeros and the Mexican government. In the years following the establishment of truce, however, the government continued to assassinate religious leaders and suspected members of the rebellion, killing approximately 5,500 individuals over a ten year period. Persecution of Catholics would not cease until approximately 1940, with the election of a Catholic president. The effects of the war on the Church had been profound. Between 1926 and 1934 at least 40 priests were killed. Where there were 4,500 priests serving the people before the rebellion, in 1934 there were only 334 priests licensed by the government to serve fifteen million people. The rest had been eliminated by emigration, expulsion and assassination. By 1935, 17 states had no priest at all.
While the 25 canonized martyrs all died during the Cristero War, they did not die together. Rather, their deaths were spread throughout the states of Mexico—all for pledging their allegiance to the Lord, and continuing to live and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. Of the martyrs, all were priests, with the exception of three who were laity who served and died alongside their parish priests.
Spiritual reading: Have that tender care that expresses itself in the little things that are like a balm for the heart . . . With our neighbors go into the smallest details, whether it is a question of health, of consolation, of prayerfulness, or of need. Console and ease the pain of others through the tiniest of attentions. Be as tender and attentive towards those whom God puts on our path, as a brother towards brother or as a mother for her child. As much as possible be an element of consolation for those around us, as soothing balm, as our Lord was towards all those who drew near to him. (Charles de Foucauld)
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus continues in today’s gospel his priestly prayer for the unity of his followers. This subject, of course, is a touchy one for those of us who share in modern times the one baptism of Jesus Christ. Various rifts over the course of the history of the Church have splintered us into different traditions. In light of this experience, we might despair and be tempted to believe that Jesus’ prayer has failed and failed badly at that.
But I, for my part, do not believe Jesus’ prayer has failed. The truth about God is very large indeed, and it seems impossible to me that any one narrative about God comprehends the truth about God. God has made all of us in God’s own image, and yet we all exhibit many differences. This fact suggests to me that the truth about God requires many different narratives to explain it. God needs God’s many churches to provide homes for the many narratives that attempt to explain the truth about God and appeal to the hearts of all of those of us who would believe. So I say, rejoice in our Christian plurality, for in it, we draw closer to the one true God.
Saint of the day: David I was born in 1084, the son of King Malcolm III and Queen Saint Margaret of Scotland. He was sent to the Norman court in England in 1093. In 1113, he married Matilda, the widow of the earl of Northampton, thereby becoming earl himself, and added the title earl of Cumbria when his brother Alexander I became king. He waged a long war against King Stephen for the throne of England on behalf of his niece Matilda but was defeated at Standard in 1138.
As King of Scotland from 1124, he was much more successful, ruling with firmness, justice, and charity. David established Norman law in Scotland, set up the office of chancellor, and began the feudal court. He also learned the spirit of Cistercian monks from Ailred of Rievaulx, who for a time was David’s steward. Scottish monasticism began to flower from the start of David’s reign and countless almshouses, leper-hospitals, and infirmaries were established.
The monasteries founded under David’s patronage were superb architecturally as well as spiritually. The king re-founded Melrose Abbey on the main road from Edinburgh to the south, and it remained one of the richest houses in Scotland. David also founded Jedburgh Abbey in 1138, filling it was monks from Beauvais in France. At Dundrennan in Dumfries and Galloway he founded in 1142 a splendid abbey and staffed it with Cistercians from Rievaulx. The monks were so well managed that they even started their own shipping line and traded from the Solway Firth less than two miles away. He died at Carlisle, Scotland, on May 24, 1153.
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.
I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel, Jesus continues his prayer to the Father. He asks the Father that his apostles, and by extension, that we, may completely share Jesus’ joy. He does not ask that we be removed from the world; instead he ask that God will shelter us from its evil influences. In doing so, Jesus asks the Father that we be dedicated to the truth.
A word about truth perhaps is in order. As I see it, truth is like a diamond. It has many facets. When you hold it up to the light and turn it, the light glances off the diamond in different ways; it is ever the same diamond, but it is perceived in different ways according to the place where the one who perceives stands. So we should not be too certain of our own truths as being the fullness of revelation. None of us is large enough to see what God sees. So it is that we live in an age that is increasingly comfortable with diversity. We pray with Jesus that in the midst of our diversity of cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, and practices, we always may recognize and honor, as Paul says to us in Ephesians, that there is but one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. I profess that the truth is Jesus Christ, the Word of God spoken in our hearts: how that one truth plays out in individual lives is still unfolding as the mystery of all our lives unfold.
Blessed be the God who keeps us in our diversity in God’s own truth.
Saint of the day: Felix was the first Capuchin Franciscan ever canonized. In fact, when he was born in 1515, the Capuchins did not yet exist as a distinct group within the Franciscans.
Born of humble, God-fearing parents in the Rieti Valley, Felix worked as a farmhand and a shepherd until he was 28. He developed the habit of praying while he worked.
In 1543 he joined the Capuchins. When the guardian explained the hardships of that way of life, Felix answered: “Father, the austerity of your Order does not frighten me. I hope, with God’s help, to overcome all the difficulties which will arise from my own weakness.”
Three years later Felix was assigned to the friary in Rome as its official beggar. Because he was a model of simplicity and charity, he edified many people during the 42 years he performed that service for his confreres.
As he made his rounds, he worked to convert hardened sinners and to feed the poor–as did his good friend, St. Philip Neri, who founded the Oratory, a community of priests serving the poor of Rome. When Felix wasn’t talking on his rounds, he was praying the rosary. The people named him “Brother Deo Gratias” (thanks be to God) because he was always using that blessing.
When Felix was an old man, his superior had to order him to wear sandals to protect his health. Around the same time a certain cardinal offered to suggest to Felix’s superiors that he be freed of begging so that he could devote more time to prayer. Felix talked the cardinal out of that idea. Felix died in 1587 and was canonized in 1712.
Spiritual reading: Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another. (Thomas Merton)
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.
“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: John puts the words in today’s gospel on the lips of Jesus at the Last Supper, but they are really words that the resurrected and exalted Jesus in heaven speaks even now into the ear of his Father. The words are Jesus’ prayer of recognition of what has happened to us as the result of his mission. The words are the hope to which we as Christians aspire.
Saint of the day: Blessed Irmã Dulce Pontes, S.M.I.C., was a Brazilian Catholic Franciscan Sister who was the founder of the Obras Sociais Irmã Dulce also known as the Charitable Works Foundation of Sister Dulce (Irmã means Sister). Her work with the poor population in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, has made her a candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church.
Born in 1914 in Salvador, Bahia, the second daughter of Augusto Lopes Pontes and Dulce Maria de Souza, as Maria Rita de Souza Pontes, she entered religious life when she was 18 years old. When she was thirteen years old, her aunt had taken her on a trip to the poor area of the city. The sight of the misery and poverty she encountered there made a deep impression on the young girl, who came from an upper middle-class background.
She began to care for the homeless and beggars in her neighborhood, giving them free haircuts and treating their wounds. By that time, she had already shown interest in following religious life. Her father, however, did not like the idea and insisted that she became a teacher. She graduated from high school at the age of 18. She then asked her father to allow her to follow her religious calling. He agreed and she joined the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God, in Our Lady of the Carmel Convent, in Sergipe. A year later, she received the religious habit of that Congregation and was given the name Dulce, in memory of her mother (who had died when she was 6 years old).
During the same year, she founded the “São Francisco’s Worker’s Union,” the first Christian worker’s movement in Bahia. A year later, she started welfare work in the poor communities of Alagados and Itapagipe. It was then that they started calling her the “Angel of Alagados.” In 1937, she transformed the Worker’s Union into the Worker’s Center of Bahia.
Determined to house sick people who came to her for help, Sister Dulce started to shelter them in abandoned houses, in 1939, in Salvador’s ‘Ilha dos Ratos’ (rats’ island) district. Then, she would go in search of food, medicine and medical care. Later, when she and her patients were evicted from the neighborhood, she started housing them in an old fish market, but City Hall denied her the use of the space and told her to leave.
Facing a big problem and already taking care of over 70 people, she turned to the Mother Superior of her convent and asked her permission to use the its chicken yard as an improvised hostel. The Superior reluctantly, agreed, so long as Sister Dulce could take care of the chickens (which she did, by feeding them to her patients.)
There, in 1960, the Santo Antônio Hospital, consisting of 150 beds, was inaugurated. On May 26, 1959 the Charitable Works Foundation of Sister Dulce was born, a result of the determination of a Sister who was tireless in her attendance to the sick and to the beggars who lived in Salvador’s streets. Sister Dulce’s work impressed the President of Brazil, José Sarney, who, in 1988, nominated her for the Nobel Peace Prize, with support of Queen Silvia of Sweden.
The organization she founded, known by its Portuguese acronym as OSID (Obras Sociais Irmã Dulce) is one of the most well-known and respected philanthropic organizations in Brazil. The Charitable Works Foundation of Sister Dulce is a private charity chartered under Brazilian law. It provides health, welfare, and education services, with a strong commitment to medical education and research. The Santo Antônio Hospital is the largest completely free hospital in Brazil, according to the Federal Ministry of Health. It has over 1,000 beds and receives more than 3,000 patients everyday. The Foundation established the Santo Antônio Educational Center, a school for the poor in Simões Filho, one of the most impoverished cities in the Metropolitan Area of Salvador and in the State of Bahia. There, free educational programs are provided for approximately 800 children and young people ranging in age from 6 to 19 years old. It also operates a commercial bakery and an orthopedic production center, staffed by professional workers, which produce and sell their products in many regions of Brazil and even internationally, following the idea of self-sustainability, which is part of the work concept created by Sister Dulce.
During the last 30 years of her life, Sister Dulce’s lungs were highly impaired and she had only 30% breathing capacity. In 1990, her respiratory problems began to worsen and she was hospitalized. After being hospitalized for 16 months, Sister Dulce died on March 13, 1992, at the age of 77, in Santo Antônio’s Convent, and she was buried at the Basilica of Our Lady of Conception. On June 9, 2010, Sister Dulce was finally buried at the Imaculada Conceição da Madre de Deus church in Salvador, Bahia. It was discovered that her body was naturally incorrupt and even her clothes were still preserved 18 years after her death. Her cause for canonization commenced in 2000 just eight years after her death, and she was beatified on May 22, 2011.
Spiritual reading: Work without love is slavery. (Mother Teresa)